Sunday, February 10, 2008

Be careful what you wish for

Remember the Sorting Hat scene in 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone', where Harry is finally is sorted into Gryffindor? Everyone wanted 'the famous Harry Potter' in THEIR house, but he finally takes his seat amid jubilant chants of "We got Potter! We got Potter!" by triumphant Gryffindors. Of course, none of them knew Harry, just his reputation, but they all wanted the cachet and the reflected glory of counting a celebrity as one of their own.

Something similar has been happening in The Episcopal Church. Despite countless disappointments and sly betrayals, conservatives still kept clinging to the hope that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, would somehow eventually come down on their side. The collapse of the fantasy of a Canterbury-led charge to restore the Episcopal Church should have been complete at the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans in September. Indeed, after that, the movement to separate from the corrupt American church began to gather speed, despite the admonitions of the Enabler of Canterbury.

But some, like Lot's wife, still kept looking back wistfully. Like grown-up children of an abusing, alcoholic parent, they were no longer able to take refuge in the innocent confusion of childhood - they could see, recognize and understand the foulness of their parent and how it had damaged them. But reason and logic can't always overcome sentiment, and even after understanding, they still kept hoping that now, AT LAST, at this late moment, as they're walking out the door, mother would snap out of her drunken haze and realize their worth, and there could be a perfect reconciliation.

On the other side, there's been scarcely-concealed glee at hooking the biggest fish in the Anglican pond. A spirit of triumph has reigned at TEC headquarters since September, and the Madwoman of Second Avenue has responded to the perceived strengthening of her position by redoubling her legal attacks upon her enemies. The liberals felt themselves secure, with their Lambeth invitations under their belts, and only a small mopping-up operation left to "regularize" the status of their champion cock-snooker, the Bishop of New Hampshire. "We got Rowan! We got Rowan!" has been all the cry.

That's why it was a moment of comeuppance to see all those liberal smirks vanish when, on Thursday, their prize pig ran amok through the victory garden. Suddenly, having Rowan Williams on their side is no fun at all; not only is he an embarrassment himself, he's committed the unspeakable crime of causing Anglican stock prices to fall. Liberals are nothing if not fashionable, and now they find themselves all decked out in thrift store discards.

The attempts to salvage the sinking flagship-turned-garbage-scow are not yielding many results. (There was another one, at Fr. Jake's blog, but I barely had a chance to read any of it, though it seemed to be growing positively incandescent. By the time I went back, it had disappeared. Bits of it are reproduced here.) The latest spin, as far as I can tell, is that people who oppose Rowan's sharia musings are really just taking this as an opportunity to stage a cloaked anti-Semitic riot. How we got from a crackpot endorsement of Muslim sharia law to reproaches of anti-semitism is anyone's guess. Reminds me of a time when Jim Bakker was caught milking PTL funds to buy a luxurious condominium, and when the press wouldn't stop asking questions, he thought he'd divert the conversation into safer channels by huffing, "There's been too much talk about condominiums, and not enough talk about...JEEEEESUS."

Well, people don't show any signs of being intimidated by this desperate attempt to guilt-trip them. People who've left the Anglican Church are reinforced in their decision, and congratulating themselves on a narrow escape. Those who've counselled staying, and the absolute centrality of the ABC and Canterbury are silent. And those who struggled so hard to "get Rowan" only win the prize to see it crumble to dust in their hands.
The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.


Anonymous Antique said...

The Enabler. I like that. Rowan the Enabler. What an epithet! It's even more humbling than "the Unready," "the Unwise" and "the Inept."

I wonder if, in another 500 years, people will be dicussing the politics of our times and thinking these were "The Canterbury Tales."

9:10 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Oh, that WOULD be fun! A modern "Canterbury Tales"! It's been so long, I'll have to get out my copy and see how I could fit the personalities. Mrs. Schori is too bloodless to play The Wife of Bath. Maybe the Swan of Newark? Hmmmm...

8:34 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quite astute... Thank you. I left ECUSA (for some reason I refuse to grant its desired name change to TEC...a final rebellion on my part) 18 months ago. I have seen it as a drunken parent (I had one as a child) that you feel sorry for, will miss holidays with, and would return to he went to rehab. But, they glory in their shame.

9:49 am  
Anonymous Anglican Paplist said...

Rowan. "A poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage .... and then is heard no more."
And the sooner the better.
And those who refuse to see that he has no clothes? Boneheads and miscreants.

(Please ... two semesters of middle English was more than enough!)

12:51 pm  
Anonymous Antique said...

Ah, yes. The Canterbury Retales, with David Booth Beers as the Pardoner. Instead of Bulls he has Canons. Instead of Relics he has Writs. Either way, his purpose in life is to separate believers from their money as quickly as possible then condemn them to exist outside the Church.

9:15 pm  
Blogger Toral said...

The official line is that Dr Williams' insightful, nuanced remarks were sensationalized by the English press, which created a furor.

The facts: Here's the last paragraph of Williams' lecture: "In conclusion, it seems that if we are to think intelligently about the relations between Islam and British law, we need a fair amount of 'deconstruction' of crude oppositions and mythologies, whether of the nature of sharia or the nature of the Enlightenment."

MY COMMENT: This oh so academic summing up is the worst thing in all of Williams' comments. Williams is saying that an advanced understanding of Sharia and Enlightenment principles will show them to be comaptable. He is 100% wrong.

Dr Williams continues: "But as I have hinted, I do not believe this can be done without some thinking also about the very nature of law. It is always easy to take refuge in some form of positivism; and what I have called legal universalism, when divorced from a serious theoretical (and, I would argue, religious) underpinning, can turn into a positivism as sterile as any other variety. If the paradoxical idea which I have sketched is true – that universal law and universal right are a way of recognising what is least fathomable and controllable in the human subject – theology still waits for us around the corner of these debates, however hard our culture may try to keep it out. And, as you can imagine, I am not going to complain about that."

MY COMMENT: This is a statement about legal theory. It sounds imposing...but gets a big fat zero in any legal theory class. (Actually in practice a bare pass -- 51 or D-) It is not a comment that a serious student of legal theory would consider worth a second glance.

Dr Williams is, in addition to his other unfortunate qualities, a poseur.

2:52 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doc, Antique, they have done a 'Canterbury Tales' - CSJ just posted the link:

6:43 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oopes here, I mean..

6:44 am  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Too brilliant for words! Thanks, Anon, for alerting me. I would have hated to make a fool of myself, trying to compete with Iowahawk!

7:48 am  

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